Paradise Alley is Rocky rewritten by Damon Runyon. Set in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen area during the 1940s, it tells the uplifting tale of three brothers, played by Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, and Lee Canalito, and how they literally wrestle their way out of the ghetto.
It’s an upbeat, funny, nostalgic film populated by colorful characters, memorable more for their individual moments than for their parts in the larger story.
Stallone proves a number of points with this film. First that he’s a very capable director with a keen eye for casting. Second, he has a charming comic presence.
Paradise Alley shows off, once again, Stallone’s ability as a writer. His sense of plot is old-fashioned – but it’s also very commercial. The basic element is a hopeful loser who wants desperately to be a winner and triumphs.
The plot of this film is almost a throwaway. Three brothers, a dumb, beefy ice man (Canalito), a bitter crippled war veteran (Assante) and Stallone, the conman, all want to escape the slums. Stallone decides that Canalito’s muscles in a wrestling ring are their ticket uptown.
[A two-minute longer version was issued on homevideo.]